Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book Review - The Endurance Diet

I have read several books by prolific writer Matt Fitzgerald before. That’s not surprising – if you’re a runner who reads a lot about running you are basically guaranteed to have come across one or more of his books before. I find him a terrific writer – he has the ability to make complicated subjects sound simple. On the other hand, I do have doubts about the content of at least some of his older books. When I bought “Brain Training For Runners” I was initially very keen but eventually changed my mind – and from what I’ve heard, so has Matt.
Never mind, the previous book he wrote about nutrition, “Racing Weight”, is very good and I do recommend it. You can tell his background as a professional nutritionist is helping him remain on solid ground, so I was immediately intrigued when I heard that he had published another book about nutrition:  “The Endurance Diet”. I was even more intrigued when I was offered a free copy for a review, and since they immediately agreed that I would be able to post a review even if I didn’t like it, I accepted.
Matt has spent a considerable amount of time interviewing, and living in close proximity to, several elite endurance athletes, ranging from runners and cross country skiers to cyclists and rowers and several other disciplines as well. He says he has identified 5 core habits that their nutrition has in common, which form the basis of the book:


1.      Eat Everything
2.      Eat Quality
3.      Eat Carb-Centered
4.      Eat Enough
5.      Eat Individually


Eat Everything means they eat a varied diet, including items from each of 6 different categories: vegetables; fruits; nuts, seeds and healthy oils; unprocessed meat (includes eggs) and seafood; whole grains; dairy.


Eat Quality speaks for itself. However, it is worth pointing out that even elite athletes do allow themselves small amounts of less healthy treats every now and again, which helps to remain on message for the majority of time. Note that “small amounts” is the operative phrase here.


Eat Carb-Centered very much goes against the recent wave of low-carb diets that seem to become increasingly popular. He points out that the Kenyans, possibly the most successful group of endurance athletes in history, are on a diet that is extremely high in carbs, and would laugh in the face of anyone arguing that carbs aren’t good for them.


Eat Enough is concerned about the amount of calories required to sustain the training that is necessary to perform at elite level. Of course this dismisses every single calorie-restrictive diet ever, and he also speaks out against calorie counting. On the other hand, according to Matt elites seem to know when they have had enough and often leave food on the plate, untouched, when they are saturated. Apparently they have a very finely tuned appetite that lets them know when they have eaten the exactly right amount of food.


Eat Individually goes somewhat against the grain of all other habits listed, in that elite athletes all vary their diets individually to their own needs and tastes, be it to wrap breakfast vegetables in meat (seriously!) or just their own version of otherwise standard dishes.


The chapters describing these habits are all very clear and very accessible. Much of it is common sense, which all too often is very much absent in dieting books, so that definitely speaks for Matt and his understanding of the subject matter.


I have to admit being slightly dubious about some of his points, though. I do know some athletes that perform at a very, very high level on low-carb diets, and I simply do not believe his assertion that this is only possible in disciplines like ultrarunning where the standard is not as high just yet, so elites can get away with a sub-optimal diet. In fact, I know a professional cyclist whose low-carb diet did not stop him from winning several medals in world championships.


There are also a few elite vegan athletes that are able to perform just fine, despite clearly not “eating everything”.


And I do get the feeling that the “Eat Individually” chapter is a bit of a cop-out; after going on about how elite athletes all eat extremely similarly he suddenly comes up with a fifth habit that seems to state the opposite, at least up to a point.


The last few chapters are a bit of a mix. I enjoyed the chapters with recipe suggestions and “Endurance superfoods” (after helpfully pointing out that “superfood” is nothing but a marketing term) but found the chapter about endurance training a bit pointless – it’s too short to provide much meaningful information and just doesn’t belong into a book primarily about nutrition in my view


His strongest point, I think, is the way in which his “diet” can be introduced in small steps, not requiring massive changes all at once, which greatly increases the chance of this approach actually working and sticking until it becomes a habit, unlike many fad diets. Nothing is restricted entirely and the odd unhealthy treat is positively encouraged, as a reward or a way to ensure that you remain on track for the rest of time – a very refreshing approach.


There is a lot of interesting information in this book and it is very well written. While I clearly do have reservations about some of the content (maybe it’s just the Doubting Thomas in me), the basic message I got from the book was to eat a diverse range of high quality food and not restrict calorie intake. Also, don't try to follow the latest fad or food hyped for alleged “endurance gains”; instead you should always opt for natural, unprocessed, healthy food and the potential endurance gains will be far greater. To support this approach, Matt also has a mobile app called “DQS” that can be used to track his “Diet Quality Score” (an idea introduced in “Racing Weight” and explained in detail in this new book as well), a simple way to track the quality of your diet, and certainly superior to calorie counting.

All in all I do think this a book you should read; read it with an open mind but remain sceptical at the same time - or is that just my own approach to just about everything?

---

For anyone interested in this book, I have been offered one copy to give away to one reader. Leave a comment stating your interest or contact me on twitter @tfbubendorfer until 7 May and I'll pick one winner at random.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

I'm back! I'm back!

Let's start with a confession: I would not have gone to Longford if I had picked my own race. I would have gone to Connemara instead, a race very close to my heart. But I guess the coach preferred a race 6 miles shorter, thus requiring less recovery time. To be honest, it seems a lot more sensible. In the last 6 months I have done exactly one run of 17 miles and that's it for long runs. It seems extraordinary to even attempt an ultra on so little endurance training, even a (relatively) short one. Nevertheless, that's what I was in for.

Longford is a long way from Kerry. This better be worthwhile! To be honest, I didn't sleep well the night before. I was too nervous.

The plan was very simple, start out at 8-minute pace, or whatever felt easy and natural, and stick with it for as long as I reasonably can and then suffer until I'm done. I would re-assess at miles 15 and 23 how I felt and adjust accordingly, but that seemed a long way off at the start.

Aidan Hogan was there, which was great because it meant I would never have to worry about potentially winning this race, leaving me to run this as a training run, just as planned (I would have gotten into serious trouble with the coach had I raced a training run). He asked me what my plan was and didn't look too pleased. I guess he had hoped for some company but my pace was too slow for him to even consider.

Anyway, at 8:30 in the morning (ok, a bit later) we were off, together with the early marathon starters. Aidan and another runner stormed off at the front and I was left in third place, at first pursued by a few others but they slowed after a while and I knew I would have to run on my own for a long time. Two marathon runners passed me after a bit, one of them usually finishes closer to 4 hours so I have no idea why he felt the need to start at 7:30 pace, the other one slightly more sensible but I caught him later on as well, close to the half marathon mark.

The course consisted of 10 laps along the Royal Canal, each lap being about 5.2k, plus about 1k extra at the start. The run along the canal was very flat but there were three bumps along the way past some bridges, which I knew would grow with each lap. About 2k were tarmac, 1k was smooth but narrow single track and the rest double track, which was rather uneven and stony, which I didn't particularly like to be honest. On each lap I was looking forward to the tarmac section, and while the single track was nice and smooth, it did make overtaking bit tricky, and there would be a lot of overtaking today.

At various stages we were joined today by a 10k, a half-marathon and a full marathon, 700 runners in all apparently (that's amazing on the same weekend as Connemara and London!), and while the better runners of those races were obviously moving faster than me, most did not and I have no idea how many times I went past another runner but it could have been over 1000 times, all on a rather narrow course. On the plus side, it ensured I never felt lonely and there was always someone to chase - a welcome change to most other ultras. I do like the company of other runners!

Anyway, the pace I settled in was a bit faster than 8-minute pace, which initially worried me a bit. I did slow down a few times but every time I checked the watch I found I had unwittingly accelerated again, and soon enough I stopped looking at the watch and just ran by feel alone.

I did expect to suffer. I hoped I would get to halfway feeling good, which would still leave plenty of scope for suffering, and I hoped to be done in roughly 4:30. I also worried about cramping - surely running twice as far as your single longest training run, at pretty much the same pace, was almost guaranteed to bring on some cramps, going by past experience. On the other hand, a bit of suffering might be character-building, or at least I keep telling myself.

There was one minor incident after 3 laps when the 10k runners were assembling at their start line. Since the course is so narrow, it really required everyone to be careful with everyone else, especially when one large groups assembles on the path while other runners are already in the middle of their race. Actually, the other runners were all great, for all races. My problem came when one of the marshalls stepped out, right into my path. "Excuse me" - still stepping out. "Excuse Me!" - still stepping, and now he's getting uncomfortably close. "EXCUSE ME!" and bang, I bumped into him. I could not step aside because there was absolutely no room to do so, and I hadn't slowed down because I really had not expected him to fully block my path, especially with me shouting 3 warnings. Anyway, no harm done, though I did wonder how he possibly could not have seen or heard me!

That was as exciting as it got, really. I did notice 2 runners running less than 30 seconds behind me for over 20 miles, but when they accelerated and finally overtook me they turned out to be marathon runners from the early start, so I didn't lose my place in the ultra field.

At mile 15 I re-assessed and decided that I felt surprisingly good but accelerating was most likely a bad idea with so much race still left and I just kept going at the same pace.

I did the same at mile 24 or 25, a little bit later than planned but the miles were still ticking by so fast I had missed my cue. At that point my hamstrings were definitely tired and my hip flexors were starting to complain as well, but overall I was feeling a lot better than expected; before the race I had expected to be in a world of pain by that point. Instead my running form seemed still solid (as far as I could tell at least) and I was still moving at the same pace. I decided to try and keep going as I was, but without increasing the effort past a certain threshold, which realistically meant I would slow down a tad. That's ok. Aidan lapped me, moving at the same pace as the faster half-marathon runners, which was very impressive to say the least. He still looked totally comfortable going considerably faster than 7-minute pace well past the marathon distance. Afterwards he told me he finished with a sub-6 mile. Blimey!

Anyway, my own pace did drop just below 8-minute pace but I was well ahead of schedule and, most importantly, feeling so much better than expected I could hardly believe it. I passed the marathon mark in about 3:24, still very comfortable though at that point I definitely started tiring and it got a bit harder from here on. But with the finish in sight that wasn't much of an issue.

Right at the end of my last lap the microphone guy announced an ultra runner just finishing, which I obviously took to be me, until he said "number 7", which was not my number, and it was only then that I realised that I had almost completely caught up to the second runner who had headed off fast at the start, but finished maybe 2 or 3 seconds behind him. Honestly, had I known that I would have run just a tiny bit faster, not that it mattered. Both of us were so far behind Aidan that he had time to shower, change and eat, and he could probably have finished reading a book or paint a landscape to pass the time waiting for us.

So, I finished in third place (at least as far as I know, not having seen any official result), 32.85miles on the watch, in 4:16:40, which translates to 7:48 pace, a bit faster than expected, but feeling so much better than I thought I would. I was really pleased, not with the time, I didn't care about that, but with how well this had gone. I had no business to believe this would go so well, with my reduced training the last few months, but apparently I don't have to run 100 miles a week to get into some decent shape. Maybe it's muscle memory.

Anyway, now there's some time for recovery. But my confidence level has increased by an enormous amount, which is the main thing I take away from Longford.

Lap paces: 7:46, 7:45, 7:49, 7:42, 7:43, 7:33, 7:46, 7:56, 8:03, 8:03. I'm very happy with those numbers and how well they held up.

I'm an ultra runner again!

21 Apr
4 miles, 32:52, 8:13 pace, HR 135
22 Apr
Longford Royal Canal Ultra, 53k
4:16:40, 7:48 pace, HR 154
23 Apr
4 miles, 33:57, 8:29 pace, HR 141

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Plateau

In the early stages of the week I couldn't make up my mind if I was recovering properly from the mountain or not. The legs sure felt a lot better on Monday than they had on Sunday but for some reason the HR was a little bit higher even though the effort had felt easier. But the difference was so
small I didn't think any more about it - these things can be affected by all kinds of external factors and we're talking about very minor blips here.

Tuesday was similar, the legs felt pretty much fully recovered but the HR was just a tad higher than I would have wanted.

At that point I decided I was overthinking the whole thing. A HR difference of one single beat is nothing, that's a rounding error. I might have hit a bit of a plateau at the moment but this happens. I'm taking it a bit easier right now anyway.

I did feel up to another trip up the Windy Gap. I have a rather long run on schedule for Saturday, so one climb would have to do. The legs felt a bit funny starting out but once I hit the steep slopes I pushed the effort a bit and they responded immediately. The weather was quite nice again, I had a good view towards the Reeks and my new mate Carrauntoohil, and Windy Gap just being Gap, really.

And on Thursday it was back on the road again. There was no trace of fatigue in the legs but I made sure to take it very, very easy anyway, with my eyes firmly fixed on Saturday.
17 Apr
7 miles, 54:16, 7:45 pace, HR 144
18 Apr
7 miles, 54:10, 7:44 pace, HR 143
19 Apr
10.7 miles, 1:31:12, 8:31 pace, HR 148
   Windy Gap
20 Apr
7 miles, 54:55, 7:51 pace, HR 141

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Carauntoohil

I shouldn't have said that the curve is always pointing upwards I guess, because it did get a kink on Friday. Looks like I jinxed myself. Not that 7 miles at 7:06 pace is a particularly bad workout but with the HR stuck at 159 it wasn't quite what I wanted to see.

It had all started so well with me ticking off 6:50 miles while feeling exceptionally relaxed, until I turned sharply left twice and now had that wind right in my face! To make matters worse, the way the loop was shaped meant I had the wind at my back for about 2 miles and against my face closer to 4, which didn't do the average much good. Once I turned into the wind I found it next to impossible to get the HR down. I felt like I was crawling and I still had the HR alarm beeping relentlessly. I was doing about 7:20, which wasn't all that slow into a headwind but after the 6:50 miles it felt like almost standing still.

Ah well, so the numbers are worse than last week. How much that is due to the wind and how much to latent fatigue from the weekend or the Windy Gap I'm not entirely sure. What I do know is that I did something COMPLETELY different on Saturday.

You see, I have been living here for 13 year and I can see Carauntoohil right from my front door. However, to my eternal shame, I have never climbed it. I must have said something to Niamh because she bought me a voucher for a guided tour, which meant now I had to quit talking about it and go and do it instead. I guess that was the main reason why I had never gone up there before: having grown up in the mountains (different mountains altogether) I have way too much respect for them to go up there on my own on a first attempt, so it was always going to be a guided tour and it took Niamh to break the inertia and just go ahead and book something.

Originally I was planning on going on Friday but one look at the weather forecast earlier this week made me change it to Saturday. That made it worse for Niamh as she had to taxi the kids on a busy day all on her own but it was definitely the right choice. Friday was a miserable wet day without any views and Saturday turned out much better than I could have hoped for. We had some non-athletes in our group, so we took our sweet time. It meant 7 hours on my legs, which should actually be surprisingly good ultra training - a way of training that is definitely under-utilised, not just by me but most runners. Last year I spent a weekend in Wicklow soaking up Barry Murray's wisdom and I know he would have enthusiastically recommended it. MC was all for it as well. Anyway, the clouds all lifted when we got to the top and the views are just to die for (Caher, btw, looking by far the best) and I even had a good view at our house but just couldn't see them waving back.

It's definitely something I can warmly recommend and going with an extremely knowledgeable tour guide was great too. Not only did he point out all kinds of landmarks that I would have missed otherwise, he also told us plenty of stories from the mountains and we got a lot of education about how to treat the mountain with respect and how to minimise our impact, all delivered by a man who lives and breaths the mountains.

Anyway, Sunday's easy run was rather mundane in comparison, yet another easy 7 miler like I have done so many times before. The legs were definitely feeling the mountain and I would have sworn I was plodding ahead at a very slow pace. The numbers on the watch did surprise me when I got back home.

13 Apr
7 miles, 55:52, 7:59 pace, HR 136
14 Apr
10 miles, 1:13:08, 7:18 pace, HR 154
   incl 7 @ 7:06 (HR 159)
15 Apr
Carauntoohil, 7:30, 9.5 miles
16 Apr
7 miles, 53:48, 7:41 pace, HR 143
















Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Up

Ah well, I guess the form curve can't always point steeply upwards when you're in training ...

Actually, scratch that. Looks like it can.

Cian playing at a concert last Sunday
Alright, I've had a few days of rather heavy legs after the weekend but by now they have bounced back and the numbers are getting higher once again and so far there seems to be no ceiling in sight, unless I just jinxed myself with that last sentence.

It got a little bit better with every passing day, and after three easy days I felt sufficiently recovered to head back up Windy Gap once more this morning, this time carrying on over the pass itself and dropping down towards Glenbeigh before turning around for a second climb. It certainly lived up to its name today; the ascent from the Caragh lake side was one of my slowest and the one from Glenbeigh close to my personal best without even trying, but that one felt assisted by a magic hand relentlessly pushing me up. A little bit of wind is part of all the fun of course but I appreciated it being a dry morning. I bought new trail running shoes after my old ones had more or less fallen apart in Aherlow last September, a pair of Asics Tambora, the main draw being that they seem to be okay for both road and trail, but which probably comes with the drawback that they won't excel in slippery wet conditions. I guess I'll find out eventually.

Getting the right pair of shoes for trail running seems to be much trickier than for road running. I have worn dozens of different shoes from all kinds of brands on the road and was comfortable with almost all of them but neither of the 2 off-road shoes I've used so far (Inov-8 Talon and Inov-8 Terrafly) have been quite what I have been looking for. Let's see how the new ones work out, so far so good.

10 Apr
7 miles, 57:05, 8:09 pace, HR 135
11 Apr
7 miles, 55:34, 7:56 pace, HR 136
12 Apr
12+ miles, 1:50:07, 9:08 pace, HR 145
   Windy Gap

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Finally A Long Run

The good news is that my back gradually got better with each passing day, to the extent that it is only just about noticeable by Sunday. That's definitely a big bonus - a painful back can be downright debilitating, even if it never stopped me from running (and, in fact, running seemed beneficial).

I also got some good training runs under the belt. Gradually this is starting to feel like actual training rather than just jogging around at easy effort.

Thursday was an easy run but very good in as far as the legs didn't feel any tiredness following the mountain run the previous day. I was also pleased by the fact that I ran at a very easy effort and still was well under 8-minute pace. A couple of months ago that pace would have felt like a tempo run, now it's a recovery effort.

Speaking of tempo runs, that was in store on  Fast Friday. Things have gone up a notch again, with 7 miles at the higher effort (not quite at what would usually be a regarded a tempo run, though). I checked the watch just once or twice at the start and then ran entirely by feel. What came out the end was 7:07 pace at HR 153 - very, very nice numbers. Not so long ago I did an evaluation where I ran 7:11 at HR 161, now I'm running faster than that at a substantially lower heart rate. I'm actually amazed at these numbers - I thought I'd never see the likes again! That's as good a set of numbers as I've ever seen, comparable to 4 years ago when I ran a 2:55 marathon on a very hilly course. And I'm getting closer and closer to 50 - maybe age really is just a number!

Saturday was a return to my old hunting grounds, a loop around Caragh lake. Despite the lake itself being as flat as any other accumulation of  water, this is a very hilly loop with over 500 feet climbing on one hill alone and over 1500 feet along the entire loop. To be honest, I wasn't exactly looking forward to it, not having done a long run for months, and with slightly pre-fatigued legs to boot. However the only way to do it is to - just go and do it. It actually went better than expected. The legs gradually got tired over the second half but were still in reasonably good shape by the time I got back home. I was rather tired for the rest of the day, though, and I could feel the legs all day.

Sunday was probably the most difficult run, this time really on tired legs. I took it as easy as I could and got it done. Running on tired legs is supposed to be good training for an ultra, so chalk up 7 miles on that particular board.
6 Apr
7 miles, 54:38, 7:48 pace, HR 138
7 Apr
10 miles, 1:13:48, 7:11 pace, HR 149
   incl. 7 miles @ 7:07, HR 153
8 Apr
17 miles, 2:13:05, 7:49 pace, HR 147
9 Apr
7 miles, 56:41, 7:05 pace, HR 138

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

And It's The Back Again

On Monday morning I got up at the usual time and got ready for my run. Things were progressing like they do every other morning, me mostly on autopilot, until the point where I put on my socks (which happens just before going out, I do potter around bare feet before that). Just as I was balancing on my left leg to put on my right sock, just like I have done hundreds of times before, I felt like being stabbed in my lower back and for an instant a massive pain wave shot through my body.

This has happened before. In fact, this one wasn't the worst. Once it had hurt so badly I basically blacked out from sheer pain for a split second, so this was a mild one in comparison. I still manged to somewhat bend over, carefully, and put the sock on, and managed the shoes as well.

Running doesn't aggravate my lower back, so I went out for the run just like normal. In fact, it helped. Once the endorphins kicked in, the back was much more bearable.

In the office later that day I was uncomfortable rather than in pain. I managed to go to Yoga as well, and apart from the back no feeling quiet right when attempting a handstand (against the wall, don't get excited!) it was just fine. It was a bit better on Tuesday and another bit better on Wednesday, so I guess this will go away once more soon enough, but I know that there is some weakness somewhere and it does manifest itself in my lower back far more often than I would like.

The view from Windy Gap - not today, though
Anyway, like I said, I kept on running as if nothing had happened. Easy runs on Monday and Tuesday felt good and the legs seem to have gotten over Saturday's overenthusiastic pace very quickly, so I dared to head for the trails on Wednesday morning and went up Windy Gap for the first time this year. I didn't push the effort and running up to the Gap itself was challenging enough but I got through it in once piece and was actually quite pleased by how well it had gone. The light was still quite low. the overcast sky not helping, in the so there was not much of a view to be had, but that's not why I had gone up there anyway.

Running mountain trails has proven to be a very effective training tool in the past, even when preparing for a totally flat race, so I'll keep doing that. The Gap hasn't seen the last of me.
3 Apr
7+ miles, 57:01, 8:05 pace, HR 138
4 Apr
7 miles, 54:26, 7:46 pace, HR 142
5 Apr
10.7 miles, 1:35:38, 8:56 pace, HR 145
   Windy Gap

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Someone Else's Turn

There was another 5k on this weekend, even closer to home. It was also closer to my heart because this really was one for the local community. It also doesn't hurt that I won it a couple of years ago, which obviously provides lovely memories. However, I once more decided not to run the big boys' race; my training felt rather disrupted this week, having to recover from Sunday's race, and I did not want to disrupt it any further. As lovely as the Glounaguillagh race would have been, I decided to accompany my youngest daughter around the kids' course instead. This didn't provide much of a workout but it was great to see her having fun and enjoying herself so much. Good choice!
The athlete with her prize

Anyway, after running no more than 5 miles at the start of last week and then feeling pretty much recovered, I thought it would be safe to run a bit longer on Saturday. That in itself might have been fine but somehow I got it into my head to push the effort a little bit. I'm not sure where that had come from, it certainly wasn't planned that way. It's not that I ran like a complete lunatic but I definitely ran a bit harder than would have been optimal. The legs started hurting after 10 miles but I kept going. The last few miles were dragging a bit but I got home before things fell apart. The numbers don't look too bad and an average heart rate of 147 doesn't seem all that excessive but the legs were a bit sore all day afterwards and they still didn't feel quite right the next day. My best guess is that plenty of  my muscle fibres were still in recovery and got overworked - I'd better take it easy again for a bit.

I thought I'd taken it easy on Sunday morning, especially with the blustery wind, but was rather surprised to see 7:44 pace on the watch. I could have sworn I had run much slower than that! Maybe the sunshine had provided some extra energy? It's rare enough round here.

31 Mar
7 miles, 54:26, 7:46 pace, HR 144
1 Apr
14 miles, 1:47:11, 7:39 pace, HR 147
2 Apr
7 miles, 54:12, 7:44 pace, HR 143

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Rest And Recovery

Maybe it’s crazy, or maybe it’s just a sign how old and boring I have become the last few years, but I was actually much more excited by seeing my HR/pace data on Monday’s recovery run than I was about anything related to Sunday’s race.

TRAPPIST-1 according to Lola
Still, running almost a minute a mile faster for the same HR than I did last October, when I should have been in top form before the European champs, was quite something. Also, remember how I mentioned my VDOT increase in February and how that would make me world class in a few months if it kept climbing at the same rate? Of course I was kidding but the steep rate of improvement actually kept going all the way through March, which puts me into a very nice position with 3 months still to go until Belfast.

I know I have yet to add some long runs, so obviously the hard work still remains to be done but right now things are better than I could have hoped. Late last year I had some serious doubts if I’d ever get back into some decent sort of shape, and now I have started believing again. I’m actually really looking forward to Belfast instead of being worried.

By Wednesday I felt pretty much fully recovered from the race so I went back to 7 miles on Thursday morning. Training has taken a backseat this week, being trumped by recovery, and all workouts have been put on ice until next week, so my return to the Windy Gap has had to wait – not that the weather would have made that run particularly inviting. The joke around here is that we’ve had a lovely summer, hope you enjoyed it. Let’s see how long the rainy season lasts – hopefully not until September again!


27 Mar
5+ miles, 42:01, 8:19 pace, HR 136
28 Mar
5+ miles, 41:08, 8:09 pace, HR 140
29 Mar
5+ miles, 39:17, 7:47 pace, HR 142
30 Mar
7 miles, 55:09, 7:53 pace, HR 141

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Road Racing Fun

"Do the race", he said. "It's going to be fun!" he said.

As I've said a few times, training has been going really well the last couple of months. However, that was with a long ultra race as target in mind - something that doesn't really translate to a 5k race. As such, expectations for today's race were rather low. It was the Kerry road racing championships and the club had asked me to participate with an eye on the masters team standings; however, not for the first time, out fastest runner was required elsewhere . It didn't help that it was Mother's Day, I suppose, though Niamh had voiced no objections (maybe her idea of a relaxing day is getting me out of the house).

The Star of the Laune team
Anyway, apart from not being trained to race a 5k, I had clearly forgotten how to do them. My last 5k race had been - the Kerry championships exactly one year ago! I felt rather sluggish during the warm up and doubts crept in already. However, once the gun sounded I let muscle memory take over and just carry me along.

Apparently my muscles did remember how to race a 5k. Unfortunately, they must have remembered what it was like to race a 5k in under 18 minutes, because that's what the first mile indicated. Since I'm not trained to run at that pace (the fastest workout having been at 7:12 pace), I was completely and utterly cooked after a 5:40 starting mile, even if it may have been slightly net downhill and with the wind on my back. Obviously that meant running the next mile against the wind and uphill, and boy was I in pain already. For a minute or two I had even thought I'd leave John Barrett in my wake, which very quickly turned out to be a very, very stupid idea and I could only watch him pass me and pull away while I was sucking air through a thin straw with someone using a blowtorch on my legs.

For all of the final 4k I continuously expected runners to catch up with me and pull away but while I kept hearing footsteps behind me they always seemed to fall away again. There was a steep hill after about 3.5k which I probably would barely have noticed on an early morning jog but which I thought would kill me off completely but somehow I managed to get over it. Then it was a matter of suffering with each step until I would somehow be taken out of my misery.

Bling!
"Do the race", he said. "It's going to be fun!" he said.

If he had been there I would have given him an earful! There were still about 2 minutes of torture left when I turned the last corner and climbed yet another hill. Once again I heard footsteps and for a second was prepared to throw in the towel and just let them pass me when the racing instincts kicked in once more and pushed me on, screaming legs be damned. Somehow I managed to keep running until the final line where the timer had just gone past 19 minutes. Blimey, so much torture for such a modest time!

It took me ages to recover until I was finally able to breathe again, just being grateful that I had somehow survived. The average HR hadn't even been that high at 173; I would expect to average close to 180 in a 5k race and yet I could have sworn I had never tortured myself so hard. A few weeks of speedwork would have taken care of that and I'm sure I could take at least a minute off that time, becoming much more efficient at that pace and my brain letting me push the body harder, but I'm not training for a 5k so that's not going to happen.

I, rather unexpectedly, even got some bling out of that torture session, coming second in the M45 category; at least I had something to show for it.

"It's going to be fun!" he said. I'm not sure when I want to have so much fun again.

23 Mar
7 miles, 54:12, 7:44 pace, HR 143
24 Mar
7 miles, 54:24, 7:46 pace, HR 140
25 Mar
12 miles, 1:32:02, 7:40 pace, HR 144
26 Mar
6+ miles
   Kerry County Road racing Champs
   5k, 19:03, 6:12 pace, HR 173, 2nd M45

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bumpy Heads And Irritating Pets

Yesterday, I walked into a door frame.

I've been living in that house for 13 years and you would think by now I know my way around it with my eyes closed. Well, I thought the doorway was here when in fact it was 10 inches over there and now I have a cut at the top of my right side which might leave a scar; having said that, after seeing the blood I initially thought it might be worse, never mind that it also hurt like hell.

Oh, and I refute all those nasty rumours that it had been Niamh with a rolling pin. Or the frying pan.

Monday and Tuesday were easy 7 milers, which I have done dozens of times this year. There is nothing remarkable about that - except that I posted "better than baseline" HR data for the first time since 22 June 2016 - exactly 9 months ago! That's how long it took me to recover from the 2 24 hour races I did, plus the overtraining that went with it. The numbers have been improving significantly since January and I've got 3 more months to improve them even further - that's an excellent place to be in at the moment.

However, after that bang to the head I was a bit worried about concussion, not least because it would require some time off. But after a good night's sleep I felt perfectly fine on Wednesday morning so I went ahead with my workout: hills once more.

Two weeks ago I had done 4 climbs in Treanmanagh, last week it was 5, so today there were 6 on the program. The first thing I noticed once I hit the steepest part of the first incline was how easy it felt! That often misleading feeling lasted surprisingly long. It wasn't until the third and final loop that I finally felt like working fairly hard but even then I was still pleased how well this was going.

Not the guilty cat
I think I'll head towards Windy Gap next week, as long as it will be bright enough. The clocks are going back on Sunday after all. By some quirky fate, I might be the one person in the entire country who is looking forward to the time changing the most. The reason is one of our damn cats, which starts meowing very loudly right outside our window at 5 o'clock. Almost! Every!! Damn!!! Morning!!!! I don't know how many hours of sleep I've missed due to that creature, enough to put a serious strain on our once beloved relationship (not that the cat cares). However, with the clocks going forward next week I'm reasonably hopeful that she'll start meowing at 6 o'clock instead - which is when I get up anyway.
20 Mar
7 miles, 54:41, 7:49 pace, HR 141
21 Mar
7 miles, 54:38, 7:48 pace, HR 141
22 Mar
11.5 miles, 1:32:38, 8:03 pace, HR 146
   hill workout

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Workouts

After all those months of nothing but easy running I am actually relishing running a few workouts, even though (or maybe because) this is all still rather mellow and never to the limit. Having said that, the heavy legs from the last 2 days are clearly showing that while the individual workouts themselves aren't that tough, the overall load on the system is pushing it.

I was pleasantly surprised that there was no noticeable DOMS after Wednesday's hills workout. I certainly expected at least some extra discomfort. Is it really feasible that my legs have adapted to hill running so quickly? I know I'm not exactly training on flat roads throughout the year but those hill workouts are definitely on a different scale.

"Cat ate my homework" - for real!
Anyway, the legs felt just a tad heavy on Thursday but certainly a lot better than expected. They felt perfectly fine again on Friday for my Fast Friday workout, with the "fast" bit being rather relative. This time I was back home in Kerry and the wind was howling, so the conditions were a bit more challenging than last week but once you get going you barely notice it. I started off a little bit too fast and it took a while to adjust and slow down but once I got into the zone I really got into the zone. I was so tuned in that I didn't even notice that the 6 miles had already passed and kept going for another 2 or 3 minutes when it finally clicked that I was supposed to be in the cool-down mile already. Overall it was a bit quicker as well as longer than planned but once I tuned into the effort it just seemed to feel right.

For the first time in years we missed the local St. Patrick's Parade. Maia had an altercation with a boy in school the day before and seemed rather reluctant as a result, and when the weather was so miserable on the day itself I wasn't trying too hard to persuade her otherwise. We'll try again next year.

I did pay a price for my slight exuberance during Friday's run in the form of fairly heavy legs on Saturday, which is what happens on back-to-back days when you're getting a bit ahead of yourself on the first day. Mind, it wasn't that bad, I've certainly felt worse. It was just a case of putting one foot in front of the other until it was all done. The legs didn't seem to get any worse during the run though they didn't get better either.

It was still much of the same on Sunday, except for a few miles less. If those gale force winds keep going for much longer I think I'll go nuts, though.

16 Mar
7 miles, 54:53, 7:50 pace, HR 146
17 Mar
9+ miles, 1:08:04, 7:21 pace, HR 151
   incl 6+ miles @ 7:11 pace (HR 157)
18 Mar
11+ miles, 1:25:33, 7:44 pace, HR 147
19 Mar
7+ miles, 53:52, 7:38 pace, HR 146

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Run To The Hills

Ed Whitlock RIP. The legend will be missed.
The weather gods seem to be taking turns at the moment. Saturday morning nice. Sunday morning not nice. Monday morning nice. Tuesday morning not nice. Let's see which deity eventually gets on top of it all (this being Kerry I suspect it's going to be the rain god again). But the temperatures have definitely gone up and it's about time to ditch the gloves again.

The body continues to improve. It basically took me about 3 month to recover from Albi (plus the overtraining that had preceded it) but now things are improving fairly rapidly. There were times when I did wonder if I'd ever be able to run without heavy legs again but that has thankfully been answered by now. Not every day, mind. Tuesday's Yoga legs seem to have become a permanent fixture.

After taking it easy for a few days in a row I headed towards the hills again on Wednesday early morning. Last week I definitely noticed that much of my leg strength had gone missing but today I was very positively surprised how much easier those steep climbs felt already. It was almost back to cruising them on autopilot. I even had an audience when I passed a local farmer looking after his sheep several times on three separate occasions, and he actually gave me some encouragement (well received, I can assure you!). I did 5 climbs this morning, one more than last week, and I'm considering of heading towards Windy Gap next week on the Kerry Way trail. I'll decide later on.

On even more positive news, my car was unexpectedly less damaged than expected and is back at home, ready to be driven again. Oh, and the problem was not Niamh's fault at all (unless she got the mechanic to cover for her). Saves me spending a few thousand Euro I don't have on a replacement!
13 Mar
7 miles, 55:03, 7:51 pace, HR 143
14 Mar
7 miles, 55:20, 7:54 pace, HR 144
15 Mar
11+ miles, 1:29:11, 8:04 pace, HR 151
   hills!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Gasket Blown

On Friday it actually happened. Niamh well and truly blew a gasket, with steam coming out everywhere and she looked like she was going to explode. Thankfully in that case it was literal - the car's gasket! Then again - it was actually my car's gasket! Getting an emergency phone call from your wife when you're still almost an hour away isn't that great a situation. I had to go to Dublin for Friday and we swapped cars for the day because I had to transport a sofa and a few boxes that would not have fit into my tiny Ford. I had driven that thing for well over a year and just crossed the 100000k mark on the odometer. You give it to your wife for one single day ...

Ah well. Repair bills (or replacements) do happen. Oh, and the weird thing was, when she phoned the AA for help it happened to be her brother-in-law on the other end of the line. I'm not sure what the odds are in that helpline centre but they cannot be big. Maybe we should have played the lottery that day.

Anyway, the one thing I had been worried about all that driving this week wasn't the fact that Niamh might destroy my car but that the additional stress might have an impact on my training, especially since we have stepped up this week. I had a bit of DOMS on Thursday, which was no surprise after my first hill session of the season but the next day that seemed to almost completely gone already, so I went ahead with Friday's planned workout while in Dublin.

We're doing back-to-back workouts now, though quite different to the long back-to-back runs that would usually be associated with ultra training. Instead I'm doing a few faster miles on Friday (long term readers might remember the "Fast Fridays" from years ago) and a longer run on Saturday, though since we're cranking things up very gradually this was still rather subdued training. The plan for Friday was 5 miles at 7:20 pace with a predicted HR of 155. and I ran 7:15 with a HR of 156. I just got into the zone and hardly ever bothered to check the watch, which felt just right.

Back home again on Saturday (now car-less) I awoke to some unexpected nice weather, a beautiful sunny morning and no wind whatsoever, which was just perfect for a longer run (I can't bring myself to call 13 miles a long run). The legs seemed surprisingly fresh considering Friday's workout and the long hours in the car, and the miles just flew by. I got to mile 12 when I finally started to feel tired, but by that time I could smell the barn. In fact, the last mile was the fastest of the day, which was not intended and came as a bit of a surprise. I guess I really wanted to get home.

Seven miles on Sunday rounded out the week, with the legs a little bit tired from the increased training this week but actually better than I would have expected, even with the blustery wind not exactly helping. Did Saturday's lovely weather really have to disappear quite so soon?
9 Mar
7 miles, 54:41, 7:48 pace, HR 145
10 Mar
8 miles, 1:00:43, 7:35 pace, HR 150
   incl. 5 miles @ 7:16 (HR 156)
11 Mar
13 miles, 1:42:01, 7:50 pace, HR 146
12 Mar
7 miles, 54:32, 7:47 pace, HR 146

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Happy Woman's Day!

Ada Lovelace, the world's first computer programmer.
Like I said on Sunday, this week marks the start of a more focused training phase following months and months of easy running. This early in, I haven't done much yet but so far I'm feeling great.

Sunday's extra miles didn't seem to leave any fatigue in the legs, which confirms my impression right after that run that I had plenty more left in the tank. The most challenging aspects were the outside conditions with a seemingly never-ending gale force wind ably abetted by the occasional heavy rain shower, not exactly my most favourite running weather. The effort level of my easy runs has definitively decreased slightly since I started the occasional workout but the pace continues to stabilise while the HR is dropping - always a good thing.

I started a new kind of workout on Wednesday, namely hill running. I'm not going straight up the Windy Gap yet but picked the hilliest road within 2 miles of home I could think of, which happens to be on the same mountain as Windy Gap, albeit on its other side. What was clear from the first time I hit a gradient was that my leg strength isn't quite what it used to be. Obviously that didn't come as a surprise. I went over the hill twice in each direction, on one side it was an at times very steep climb of half a mile for about 200 feet elevation, on the other side it was a more gradual but longer climb of 300 feet elevation over a mile. Initially I was ambitious enough to try a strong steady pace for a minute or two going right over the top but on the second half I was content just to make it over the hill without a major crisis.

I did have a bit over a mile to spare for today's planned distance which I could have used for one extra climb on the steep side but decided that I had probably pushed my luck already for a first hill outing and headed for home and added a much flatter out-and-back instead.

Let's see how the legs will like this tomorrow and Friday!
6 Mar
7 miles, 57:09, 8:10 pace, HR 142
7 Mar
7 miles, 55:32, 7:55 pace, HR 145
8 Mar
10 miles, 1:24:06, 8:24 pace, HR 149
   hill run

Sunday, March 05, 2017

And So It Begins

Belfast is 17 weeks from now. After a few months of slowly, slowly rebuilding after it all had come crushing down in Albi, I am now moving into the next training phase. I was really pleased with my progress in February and now we're pushing it to the next level. As always, this will require to have an eye on recovery - if I cannot recover from my training it won't do any good (something I definitely saw last year).

Relaxing, Labrador style
I took it easy after Wednesday's evaluation and the legs soon felt recovered but my back was a bit stiff on Thursday. While I did wonder what was going on I did not take too much notice. It was still the same on Friday morning but it got really bad during the office day and at times I did grimace when getting out of my chair when the muscle seemed to go into spasms. I also slept very badly that night because every time I moved the back would spasm and invariably wake me up. The problem area is on the left side of my back at the lower end of the rib cage. Putting some warm pad on the area seems to provide some temporary relief but overall this is a bit troubling.

I'm pretty sure this isn't running related. Running does not aggravate it, though I do feel it at times. The coach suspects the yoga, I suspect carrying a 10kg bag of dog food as the culprit. Niamh wants me to have it seen but, being an idiot (as in "male"), I'm inclined to give it a few days to see if it improves all on its own first. Sitting in the car for a few hours yesterday was unlikely to have helped, though.

Anyway, I awoke on Sunday morning to rather wild and unwelcoming conditions. Checking the forecast seemed to indicate that the rain might lessen in a few hours but the wind would pick up, which made this a tricky choice. I really did not fancy 90 minutes on the treadmill so I waited a bit for the worst of the rain to subside and headed out. I got about 200 metres down from our driveway when encountering a massive fallen tree across the road but managed to climb over it. Looks like it really had been windy through the night! The rest of the road was clear, thankfully, and I went to my usual bad-weather option on the Ard-na-Sidhe road. Running the same stretch of road forwards and back isn't all that stimulating but I got into autopilot mode and just cruised through it. I was surprised how easy it felt, even after 11 miles, my longest run in ages, I had plenty left in the tank despite the wind and rain making things interesting at times.

And so it begins.

2 Mar
7 miles, 55:58, 8:00 pace, HR 144
3 Mar
8 miles, 1:04:52, 8:06 pace, HR 142
4 Mar
7 miles, 54:28, 7:46 pace, HR 150
5 Mar
11 miles, 1:27:20, 7:56 pace, HR 149

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The Flow

Another week, another evaluation. Is it just my advanced age or is time really flying?

Following the twin storms last week the temperatures tumbled, just when I thought I was more or less done with winter. It's now bright enough in the mornings to leave the headlamp behind but it was cold enough the freeze the fingers inside my thin gloves on Monday.

Never mind, I like it cold. I just don't like cold rain showers - which, of course, were in store a couple of times as well.

I think 9 miles on the treadmill were slightly easier on the body than 9 miles on the road because the legs and the numbers were both surprisingly good on Monday. Tuesday was different, though at least the legs weren't quite as sore as the shoulders after the yoga teacher had let her sadistic streak shine through. It was a bit surreal, though - on the way to class I was listening to Queens Of The Stone Age's Go With the Flow, only for the teacher to announce that today we were going to try out "flow yoga". I'm not normally subjected to premonitions. Anyway, Tuesday's run was almost exactly the same pace as Monday's but with the HR 4 beats higher. I reckon the yoga had added 2 beats and the biting wind another 2 but that's just a wild guess.

And then it was evaluation day again. Early in the warm up I saw the HR in the 130, which I had not seen in a very long time, but of course I then had to raise it for the eval itself.
       
        Mile 1    6:58   HR 161
        Mile 2    7:06   HR 161
        Mile 3    7:12   HR 161
        Mile 4    7:06   HR 161
        Recovery to HR 130: 46 seconds

I'm getting a bit quicker and the 4th mile looks pretty good, though I can't quite explain why the 3rd one was so much slower. Actually, the pace during the 4th mile came as a major surprise because I had definitely started to feel the effort by then, something that's not usually the case during an eval. The recovery time to 130 was rather slow, probably reflecting the same issue. But, all in all, this is pointing towards improvement.

I think I'll move the evaluation back to Thursday in the coming weeks. The legs weren't quite there yet and I'm sure they would have been perfectly fine had I waited until tomorrow.

27 Feb
7 miles, 55:20, 7:54 pace, HR 144
28 Feb
7 miles, 55:25, 7:55 pace, HR 148
1 Mar
8 miles, 1:01:28, 7:40 pace, HR 152
   incl. 4 mile eval: 6:58, 7:06, 7:12, 7:06; 46 sec recovery

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Doris And Ewen

Even though I'm running the risk of jinxing myself here, I have to say that February has been a great month. After months of rather limited progress the numbers are pointing upwards in a much steeper curve; my VDOT numbers went up by almost 3 points (I'd be world class by autumn if that kept going) and I'm generally feeling a lot better. While I had at least one family member feeling sick at any one time, my own immune system seems to have reached the stage where it can fight off those kind of infections without me even noticing.

"No more animals" I said. "No more stupid names" I said.
"Welcome Noodle" they said.
The evaluation on Wednesday wasn't great; how much of that was down to the wind and the slightly undulating road is open to question but I could tell straight away that the legs weren't quite right, so it definitely wasn't just down to external circumstances. On the plus side, and that's a big plus, this time there did not seem to be any soreness after that workout. I know the evaluation is a rather moderate workout (in fact, that's the very reason why I'm doing it weekly - I could not cope with strenuous workouts yet) but the previous 2 weeks I could definitely feel it in the legs subsequently. Not so this time, which I take as another great sign - my recovery is definitely improving.

On Saturday I ran the fastest "easy" run in a very long time. Thing is, I could have sworn I ran about 8-minute pace. Last Sunday I had run a bit fast but kind of knew that I was putting in a tad too much effort at times. Not so yesterday - this was a genuine easy effort all the way,

Ireland was visited by storm Doris on Thursday (the very reason why I had moved the evaluation to Wednesday), but that had mostly by-passed Kerry and what was visiting us was mostly gone already by the time I got up. It was a bit different on Sunday when storm Ewen made its way across the island, and this time I took the "gone old and soft" option and ran 9 miles on the treadmill instead. I think that was my longest treadmill run ever, though I can't be bothered to check back. And I managed to catch up on my downloaded episodes at the same time,

Anyway, the legs are definitely feeling good.

23 Feb
7 miles, 56:02, 8:00 pace, HR 147
24 Feb
8 miles, 1;03:46, 7:58 pace, HR 145
25 Feb
7 miles, 53:28, 7:38 pace, HR 151
26 Feb
9 miles, 1:12:30, 8:03 pace, HR 145
   treadmill

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Aguero Scores Again

As soon as I finished Sunday's run and saw the pace on the watch I knew there would have to be some payback. As much as I wish for it, my recovery still isn't anywhere near where it used to be and, sadly, 9 miles at 7:42 pace isn't something I just recover from overnight yet.

Monday was still somewhat ok but I could definitely feel the effects on Tuesday. Mind, it wasn't only Sunday's run, I also had Tuesday's customary post-yoga legs, and the fact that I was fighting gale force winds didn't exactly help.

In light of that it probably wasn't the best week to move the evaluation to Wednesday but there is a storm warning for Thursday, and one of the lessons from the past I actually remember is that there is no point to an evaluation when you're almost blown off the road with each step.

I knew straight away that the legs weren't at their best and it didn't come as a surprise that the numbers were a bit worse than last week. It wasn't exactly the calm before the storm either; in fact it was windy enough to make me move the evaluation to a different section of road. It was a bit more sheltered there and the wind came mostly from the side but it wasn't as flat as I would have liked. Ah well, running is an outdoors sport and dealing with the weather conditions is part of the game.

I had one more slight handicap. Last night I was watching the Champions League match at the Etihad, which was a good move, really, as it was the most exciting match in the history of the competition, but I paid for it by banging my knee against the coffee table when Aguero scored. I was afraid it would swell up but thankfully that didn't happen. It still felt stiff the next morning (in fact, it still does now) but out on the road I didn't even notice it.
       
        Mile 1    7:04   HR 161
        Mile 2    7:10   HR 162
        Mile 3    7:17   HR 161
        Mile 4    7:21   HR 161
        Recovery to HR 130: 45 seconds

That's worse than last week but, as mentioned, entirely expected. We'll see how it progresses. If I could change one thing about my training last week I'd slow down on Sunday. Overall, though, that's not that big a deal.

20 Feb
7 miles, 56:31, 8:04 pace, HR 142
21 Feb
7 miles, 56:03, 8:00 pace, HR 149
22 Feb
8 miles, 1:01:26, 7:40 pace, HR 154
   incl. 4 mile eval: 7:04, 7:10, 7:17, 7:21; 45 sec recovery

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Progress Is Good

I think I've been on a bit of a high this weeks because after months and months of rather limited progress my fitness finally seems to be taking off. Not only did I post some impressive improvements in Thursday's evaluation, every run now is faster than a week or two ago with a lower HR and also a slightly lower effort.

The Oscar for cutest kitten goes to ...
I'll try and not get carried away just yet. I still haven't run double digits miles and just this morning (Sunday) I ran a bit faster than I should have. The fresh legs as well as the wind and rain made me do it (ok, that really is a lousy excuse). I got a bit of a reminder yesterday that recovery still isn't back to where it used to be when for the first 20 minutes of my run I kept wondering why there was no zip in the legs, until I remembered that evaluation on Thursday and this was obviously payback time. Having said that, it was a lot better than the week before and the legs came round during the run.

Maia is just about recovered from a cold. She had a temperature and missed three days of school. The impact on me was that she insisted on sleeping in mommy's bed, which meant I was exiled to the sofa. What I did not expect was sleeping incredibly well on that sofa, so much so that I would almost be tempted to make it my regular sleeping habit - alas, that wouldn't go down well with Niamh, so better not. Then Lola invited an entire pack of friends for a sleepover, and all the good sleep was wiped out in one go. Seven teenagers in one spot really do make a lot of noise until very, very late. Ah, the joys of parenting.

You know what? I can't wait until my next run. This stuff is great!
17 Feb
7 miles, 55:30, 7:55 pace, HR 143
18 Feb
7 miles, 54:43, 7:49 pace, HR 146
19 Feb
9 miles, 1:09:21, 7:42 pace, HR 151

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Evaluating Progress

Usually I would be doing an evaluation every fortnight but for now we decided to go for a weekly session. The purpose is not so much to evaluate my form more often but to provide a moderate stimulus after all the easy running I've been doing, while still keeping an eye on my recovery and capacity for recovery.

Last week I did have some sore legs after the evaluation, so there is a definite need to be careful. On the other hand I managed to bounce back very well, so thing s are definitely improving. For the first few days of the week I seem to have settled into a slightly lower effort level with the HR distinctly lower than previously but somehow I'm still running 8-minute miles. Keep in mind that I'm not using my watch to guide the effort - I always run at whatever level comes naturally and only ever check the watch after arriving back home.

I had considered moving the evaluation to Wednesday but had my usual post-yoga legs on Tuesday and first wanted to make sure I had recovered and left it for Thursday.

Again, I used my old Garmin 310 for the evaluation. The Suunto seems to have issues with recognising u-turns and tends to cut off a few seconds each time. That's not a problem when running 7 miles with one u-turn in the middle but when you're doing an evaluation that consists of running half a mile each way four times then 2 u-turns per mile do add up and the Suunto data just doesn't seem to be very accurate in that respect.

Anyway, the Garmin's numbers came up as:
       
        Mile 1    7:03   HR 162
        Mile 2    7:13   HR 162
        Mile 3    7:10   HR 162
        Mile 4    7:11   HR 162
        Recovery to HR 130: 39 seconds

I had to promise not to focus too much on the numbers but they did make me happy nevertheless as they are so much better than last week it's hard to believe that there are only 7 days between the 2 workouts - faster, much more even and with a significantly faster recovery time. Now, if I had learned to run by just 1 single heart beat per minute less it would have been almost perfect.

13 Feb
7 miles, 56:44, 8:06 pace, HR 144
14 Feb
7 miles, 56:21, 8:03 pace, HR 145
15 Feb
7 miles, 55:58, 7:59 pace, HR 144
16 Feb
8 miles, 1:00:58, 7:37 pace, HR 156
   incl. 4 mile eval: 7:03, 7:13, 7:10, 7:11; 39 sec recovery

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Slowly, Slowly

Having come back slowly from my overtraining, I had forgotten what it feels like to run on sore legs. I did get a reminder after Thursday's workout, moderate as it had been. Friday was still okay, just a little bit of heaviness in the legs but that's okay.

I made the error on Saturday of starting too fast. Granted, a 7:35 mile isn't exactly devastating pace but I always use the first mile as my warm up and it tends to be the slowest mile of the day, but for some reason my effort gauge was off that day. That's alway a potential problem when you run by feel without consulting the watch, I guess. By mile 2 I already started to feel the effort and dialled it back a bit but by the time I hit the turnaround point and now felt the icy northeasterly wind in my face I wished I had taken it a bit easier to start with.

I was only 3.5 miles from home so obviously I made it back without any real problems, but it did serve as a reminder of what the legs can feel like when you're in training.

By Sunday all was fine again and I did extend the run by another mile to 9. Woohoo. I battled the same conditions as on Saturday with an icy cold wind from Scandinavia making things a bit more interesting but as long as it remains dry it can stay like that as far as I'm concerned. Extending the run also gave me an extra decent sized hill, which is definitely a good thing.

Slowly, slowly, we're turning up the training load. It's 4 and a half months until Belfast, still plenty of time to get some endurance back into the old body.
10 Feb
7 miles, 56:23, 8:03 pace, HR 146
11 Feb
7 miles, 54:33, 7:47 pace, HR 151
12 Feb
9 miles, 1:11:51, 7:59 pace, HR 148

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Analyse This

I don't think anyone can accuse me of being impatient during the present training cycle. After taking a month off late in October I started back on 19 November and for almost 3 months I have done nothing but easy running, the lactate test with the team being the one exception, and I wouldn't have done that one if left to my own devices.

This morning, after almost 3 months of jogging it felt pretty good to do a workout for once. A modest one of course. The evaluation workout is MC's preferred method to test training progress, and apart from providing a baseline of my present state of fitness it also should have provided me with a modest stimulus that will hopefully be felt in the near future.

The last month had been going very well and the numbers had finally shown signs of going noticeably upwards, despite me being hampered by a succession of mild colds. It therefore seemed safe enough to crank up the dial, if only very slightly.

The evaluation workout consists of a warm up and then 4 miles of holding the heart rate as steady as possible at 161 (that's for me, with a max HR of about 190). Then you come to a complete stop and measure how long it takes for the HR to recover to 130.

Because my Suunto Ambit 2, while being a very fine running watch in almost every other aspect, isn't particularly good with workouts, I dug out my battered old Garmin 310 for the morning (in fact, I wore both). I had two sources of slight stress: one, to remember to press the correct buttons on the Garmin at the appropriate times, which I just about managed with a few minor hickups along the way, and two, not to go into complete meltdown when analysing the numbers and comparing them to what they used to be like when I was in good shape (and younger).

Well, it ended up as follows:
       
        Mile 1    7:06   HR 161
        Mile 2    7:16   HR 162
        Mile 3    7:18   HR 162
        Mile 4    7:28   HR 162
        Recovery to HR 130: 53 seconds

Actually, considering the last few months that could have been worse. It was not the slowest evaluation I have ever done (close), it wasn't the biggest difference between the first and the last mile (close), but it was indeed the longest recovery time since records began (close). The idea now is to repeat the process and see the numbers improve as training progresses. If they don't then I'll have to change things, obviously. That's why you evaluate stuff, for objective feedback. It's preferable to guessing.

One quirky note: my fastest mile of the day was actually the second "warm up" mile because I had to work to get my HR up to 161. Usually I would have done 4 miles of warming up to enable me to gradually increase the HR but that would have resulted in too long a run. I'll have to tweak that format.
6 Feb
7 miles, 55:32, 7:55 pace, HR 151
   Super Bowl induced sleep deprivation
7 Feb
7 miles, 58:59, 8:25 pace, HR 144
   Feeling a bit under the weather
8 Feb
7 miles, 55:24, 7:54 pace, HR 147
9 Feb
7 miles, 53:52, 7:38 pace, HR 156
   incl. 4 mile eval: 7:06, 7:16, 7:18, 7:28; 53 sec recovery

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Some People

World Record holder
Did you know there are world records for running long distances in full fireman gear? I happen to know the guy who owns the world record for running a marathon in full gear. Incidentally, I was running the same marathon at the time and remember passing him at mile 17. Even more incidentally, I also know the guy who held the record before Alex broke it.

And if that's not mad enough, as of yesterday I also know the guy who has the world record for running 100k in full fireman gear, which now stands at 15:10. If you think that's a bit slow, he took over 7 hours off the previous record. And if you think those are meaningless gimmicks, well, I know where you're coming from but I can assure you that both world record holders are serious runners at international level. Anyway, Congratulations, Andi!

My own running isn't quite at record level right now but it is clearly improving, despite being slightly hampered by yet another annoying cold. Niamh had it a few days ago and now it's my turn. I had a sore throat during the week which was barely noticeable but now I can feel a slight restriction in my chest and my energy levels aren't quite there, though my resting HR is fine and my running HR is actually improving, so it can't be that bad.

The temperatures have dropped towards zero again but I can handle that pretty well (better than my car by the looks of it). It's only when it's mixed with icy cold rain and wind that I don't like it, not that it stops me from running.

My sleep pattern has slipped again; after being quite disciplined at going to bed early for a few weeks my resolve has started to slide again and I can feel the difference straight away. That needs to be sorted out asap, the effect of too little sleep is real and it's not small either. You can forget about marginal gains when you're still yet to get the basics right,

2 Feb
8 miles, 1:03:42, 7:57 pace, HR 153
3 Feb
7 miles, 56:52, 8:07 pace, HR 146
4 Feb
7 miles, 54:15, 7:45 pace, HR 150
5 Feb
8 miles, 1:01:58, 7:44 pace, HR 149

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Consistency

On Monday morning, my legs felt heavy.

Last year that would not have been unusual. My legs felt heavy basically all the way from July to September (not that I admitted it, even to myself at the time).

But this year has been different. Apart from a few post-yoga Tuesdays I have felt pretty good on most of my runs, so this was notable. I presume it had something to do with running 8 miles instead of 7 twice that week but that was such a small increase in load that I would not have expected a noticeable impact. I sure never felt tired after any run and an 8 mile run felt exactly the same as a 7 mile run.

Things were still a little bit off on Tuesday, though this could have been the yoga again. But it was enough to keep the mileage at 7 on Wednesday instead of the 8 I had originally planned.

Crikey, is one single extra mile really worth all that naval gazing? Probably not, so let's move on quickly.

I'm not entirely sure if my throat is slightly sore or if I'm merely imagining it. Either case it's unlikely to be serious and I guess I'll know in a couple of days. The numbers have dipped again, though that's perfectly in line with the usual up-and-down pattern.

Just carry on as usual. That's what makes a runner. Consistency. It's not flashy. But it works.

30 Jan
7 miles, 57:25, 8:12 pace, HR 144
31 Jan
7 miles, 57:17, 8:11 pace, HR 148
1 Feb
7 miles, 56:41, 8:05 pace, HR 149